[foundation-board] URGENT: Problems with a specific individual and OKF projects

Jonathan Gray jonathan.gray at okfn.org
Mon Nov 15 14:35:41 UTC 2010

One of the main issues currently, as I see it, is that Paola is
claiming that part of LOD2 is her idea (despite the fact that work in
this area had been underway for years before she mentioned it to us),
and hence thinks that she is entitled to funding from this project.
She's also spoken to Soeren (project lead) and Stefano (project
officer at EC), and is now posting to the open-government list more,
asking people to start contributing to her project (portraying herself
as part of OKF and the project as part of OKF/LOD2).

She is also emailing people directly insinuating fraud, mismanagement,
and high probability of project failure based on OKF's incompetence,
and on the basis of 'internal issues'. All of these allegations can of
course be pretty damaging to the OKF's reputation, and the fact that
they aren't true won't prevent/mitigate this damage to people who
don't know the OKF. (E.g. bad rumours about a person can be damaging
even if they have no basis in reality.)

The problem initially was that she was claiming to have intimate
knowledge of problems that weren't public leaked to her from a board
member (Jo). She continues to say that lots of insiders and folks
within the community share her view that much of the OKF's work is not
'fit for purpose' (though its not clear who these people are, or, more
importantly, what the issues are). Again: these can still be damaging
even if they are vague, ill-conceived or predicated on

Allegations and misunderstandings aside, I'm concerned that her
manner, style and tone on several of our strategically important lists
(e.g. the open-goverment list is for a very young community and is one
of the most comprehensive lists of people interested in open gov data
in the world), will make people stop following, start filtering or
start forking. I know it should be a sign of the 'robustness' of our
community that we should deal with this kind of thing etc, but it is
very early days and at the moment I'm just frustrated that I've been
working really hard to get people on several lists (especially
open-government), things are starting to go really well, and I don't
want Paola to disincentive people, which could very easily happen.

Sorry this is written in haste. Hope its coherent. If I had more time
I would write a shorter letter, etc.

On Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 2:04 PM, Jo Walsh <metazool at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 15/11/2010 12:16, Ian Brown wrote:
>> My only concern with your proposed course of action is whether it
>> gives any further credence to claims that OKF is secretive or
>> blocking debate. Given OKF's loose structure, is it accurate to
>> say that Paola is in no way part of an OKF 'community'?
>> Is she claiming (b) or (c)?
> I would share this concern. Blocking emails to lists seems provocative and
> extreme, I would *not* support this. If it seems important to make it clear
> that Paola is not running an OKF project or speaking for the Foundation, I
> wouldn't oppose it.
> Loose structure; one thing I see in the emails is a confusion of
> "Membership" and "community member", and I'd be wary of confusing the two.
> The revocation process outlined on governance page does not look as if it
> holds up, and would only apply if someone has claimed uppercase Membership
> of OKF as opposed to being a lowercase member of the community?
> Why discuss on coord given your past concerns about alienating coord group
> members? Why not discuss this on the okfn-discuss list?
> Accusations of fraud - OKF has nothing to fear from this, right?
> There *are* governance problems which Paola raised early on. Some work has
> been done to address them, but potential problems remain.
> I tried to articulate that again on the governance list.
> It could be helpful to discuss there.
> Let's stick to our principles, of Open Discussion, and Tolerance?
> jo
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Jonathan Gray

Community Coordinator
The Open Knowledge Foundation


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